It’s like sugar…

(Deuteronomy 15:7-11) 7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

If you work hard, and you still have very little, it can be truly difficult to give.  Generosity is not always a natural tendency.  It’s hard to let go of hard-earned money and resources, especially when our society tells us that the under-privileged are constantly looking for a handout. 

However, beyond what any media plays into our minds, past all of our fears and misgivings about the intentions of people who say they are in need, we are called to love.  Does love not encompass provision and care in times of hardship?  We are so quick to jump up and fix a meal for our church family member who is sick or the family who has just had a baby.  We readily make pies, cakes, casseroles and whatever else is needed for the church potluck.  We support fundraisers for the youth group and children’s department, and we give toward projects that better our facilities.  Please understand…these things are wonderful and we should continue to support such efforts, but I am also suggesting that it should be just as easy for us to respond to the need of a stranger. 

We can do more.  I can do more. 

In Jefferson County Public Schools alone, there are approximately 7,000 homeless students.  These students rely on SCHOOL to have shelter and food throughout the day.  They are the children who never miss a day because they have the guarantee of a full belly and safety.  I’m sorry, but when did this become the responsibility of the government?  Do we dare even wonder why so many look down on the church when, in the grand scheme of it all, we do so little?

Why do you think so many people were willing to listen to Christ, follow Him, face persecution possibly unto death for Him, and loved Him without question or condition?  It wasn’t because of a beautiful facility He was able to speak in, or because He put on fun social events…it was because He responded to the needs of people who were cast away.  He healed, fed, loved and nurtured the hurt, sick and poor people.  He responded.  If we are to truly be His hands and feet, His representation, His church, then we have to do better.  We can’t worry any longer about tomorrow.  Our faith tells us that tomorrow will worry about itself.

Matthew 6: 38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

It’s like sugar…

This passage always makes me think about when you are using brown sugar in a recipe and you have to pack it down into the measuring cup.  You may be measuring it with the exact same cup that you use to measure white sugar, but that brown sugar is able to be pressed down to the point that it far surpasses the amount of white sugar that you are able to get into that vessel.  When you give, maybe what you are able to do only amounts to a cup of plain white sugar, but if you give it in love and in good faith, expecting the best, God returns that cup with a packed down double blessing.  Just like that brown sugar, He will surprise you by packing your life with a more abundant blessing, and the sweetness of what He has ready to give, you can’t possibly understand. 

And remember…all that you’ve acquired, or hope to obtain…it’s all just stuff that you can’t take with you when you’re gone…stuff that was never truly yours to begin with…so you might as well give a little…or a lot…if you dare.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to have open hands and a softer heart when it comes to those in need.  Give me the opportunity and desire to respond accordingly.  I know that You will never leave me forsaken, as I endeavor to do Your work.  Amen.

“Who Can Satisfy?”

(1 Timothy 6: 17-19, The Message) Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Growing up in the 1980’s and the 1990’s, before technology became so commonplace and advanced, wealth seemed like a very foreign concept.  If you were around during that era, watching TV every evening as many of us did, then you probably remember the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  It was hosted by Robin Leach, a British reporter in a sport coat with a very posh, London accent.  He would take us viewers on exclusive tours through the homes of very famous and extremely wealthy people from all over the world.  Because of this show, I saw things that seemed completely unreal to me — wealth beyond what I could ever imagine.  During those years before social media, the public loved famous people, but they weren’t so accessible, so the obsession with wealth and fame just wasn’t so widespread.  Those were the days when becoming famous wasn’t so easy, and though middle class was the norm for many people, wealth was a pipe dream. 

Over the past 20 years there has been a tremendous shift in society, and we have become more obsessed with looks, money, possessions, and fame than ever before.  I blame it on technology (even though I do so love it and depend on it in my own life).  But I digress…

Because it is just a lottery ticket, a screen tap, or a You Tube video away from our grasp, our society has become distracted by the relentless pursuit of wealth and fame.  As a result, we have become more and more selfish, self-absorbed, success-driven, money-hungry, greedy, competitive, and judgmental.  But let me remind you, if you are Christian there is no place in our lives for these rotten fruits that our current world produces.  If you take the time to actually pay attention what what we are being fed by the media, you will find that every bit of it is in direct opposition to the good and sweet fruits of the spirit that God has to offer His children. 

I can’t help but think about junk food.  It is so plentiful, so easily accessible, and so addictive.  We have a taste and we just want more and more…until we’ve had so much that we are literally sick!  We know that there are healthier choices out there for us to eat, but we get sucked into the craze and the need for more of the junk.  Eventually, we forget how delicious and filling all of the healthier foods can be to us, and we just keep going after those empty calories that never satisfy…that always leave us longing for more.  Recently, my husband and I have been on a journey toward better health.  We’ve cut out junk food, sugar, and most carbs.  We’ve both lost a lot of weight and are feeling pretty great, but the main thing that we have come to learn is that we are so much more satisfied after meals now.  We are making conscious efforts to partake of foods that will fuel our bodies and nourish us, and we are never left feeling guilty or lacking. 

The junk that this world has to offer us will never bring true satisfaction.  No amount of money, no house, no new car, no vacation, nothing…none of it will ever make us feel complete.  We are born with our very own, unique purposes, and they are not to simply make a good living, acquire stuff, and die.  NO!  We have a responsibility and an obligation to our Heavenly Father — to be generous (especially when we are blessed), to love and forgive, and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through our words and deeds.  So we cannot allow the distractions of the world to suck us in and lull us into the trance.  We can’t continue to fill up on all of the junk, leaving no room for any of the goodness of God’s way and plan for our lives.  We must instead follow hard after Him, seeking and loving Him above all else.  In return, all that we could ever hope to have and experience will be stored up for us in the heavenly places. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, sometimes I forget that nothing we acquire here can be taken with us when we leave this world.  So whether I struggle every day of my life, or whether I am blessed with wealth that most of us could only ever see on TV, I know that I must make every effort to be a generous steward with what you have given to me.  Help me stay focused on You.  Amen.

Someone Needs You

(Deuteronomy 24:19-22 ESV) 19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.

Because we are born as the offspring of Adam, our nature (flesh) is contrary to the things of the Spirit. When we experience new birth in Christ Jesus, our old nature passes away and all things become new. We become like Christ. He places His nature in us and we begin living a very different kind of life than we did before Christ.

In the Old Testament, people lived according to the Law; principles that were established by God for the purpose of training His people in righteousness. Most of what God required through the Law was contrary to natural inclinations.

Generosity is something that must be developed over a lifetime. Very few people are naturally generous. This is because we have a greater drive toward self-preservation. God wants us to work. He is pleased when we gather the harvest He has provided for us. In our Scripture passage God says, (1) When you reap your harvest, (2) When you beat (shake) your olive trees, (3) When you gather your grapes. Notice, there is no if–just when.

However, God also wants us to consider others as we are laboring for our own needs. He instructed His people to leave behind a portion of the harvest for those who were homeless, orphaned, and widowed. The command was clear. This action was to be done purposely. Consider these observations concerning this command.

  • The obedient acts of the harvesters served to establish a spirit of generosity in their own heart. The more they obeyed, the more giving became second nature to them. Never forget that your continued blessing is tied to your generous giving. “That the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”  (Verse 19)
  • There are people who genuinely need assistance. God was very clear about who the recipients were to be. (Homeless, Orphans, Widows)
  • The “receivers” were to glean their own “pickings.” It was not meant to be a handout. The fruit was to be left for them, but they were responsible to gather it.

God has blessed me abundantly. I don’t mean to suggest that I’m among the “rich” in material goods. But, neither am I destitute. I have the ability to make a living that is sufficient to provide for my family. I’ve learned how to work hard and pillow my head each evening with a sense of satisfaction in my labor.

But, I want more. I want to be a generous distributor to those who are less fortunate than me. I want others to be blessed because of my obedience to Christ. And, I want to always realize that everything passing through my hands is a gift from God, meant to bring glory to His name and to encourage and edify others.

PRAYER: Thank you for being so generous with me. Your blessings are evident in every area of my life. Help me to pass Your goodness along to others who are need, so that together we may experience Your divine providence. Amen.

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